v.l-2. The Nabob.--v.3. Fromont and Risler; Robert Helmont.--v.4. Numa Roumestan. Rose and Ninette.--v.5. Little What's-His-Name.--v.6. The little parish church.--v.7. The evangelist.--v.8. Tartarin of Tarascon. Tartarin on the Alps. Artists wives.--v.9. Port-Tarascon. La Fedor.--v.l0. Sappho. Between the footlights. Arlatan's treasure.--v.11. Kings in exile.--v.12. Monday tales.--v.13. Letters from my mill. Letters to an absent one. Scenes and fancies.--v.14 Memories of a man of letters. Notes on life.--v.15. Thirty years in Paris. Ultima.--v.16. The immortal. Struggle for life.--v.l7. The support of the family. The Belle-Nivernaise.--v.18-19. Jack.--v.20. Memoir
April 16, 2012
Le Petit Chose
Le Petit Chose (1868), variously published in English as Little Good-For-Nothing or Little What's-His-Name, was Daudet's first published prose. It is an autobiographical memoir of his childhood and young adulthood in the south of France in part 1; and in part 2 his early days in Paris as a struggling writer, up until his marriage. It was written when he was between the ages of 25 and 28. Generally it is recognized that part 1 is magical while part 2 is overly sentimental and shows Daudet in a less sympathetic light. This review is of part 1 only.
Daudet is always at his best with a child's view of the world, and recounting his own childhood experiences is some of his best writing. As the 1898 English translation introduction says, "it is one of the most perfect representations in literature of childhood's hopes and fears and of youth's aspirations and defeats. It is perfect because it is real. The little Robinson Crusoe of the unused silk factory at Nimes with his red-headed Friday, Rouget, and his parrot; the ever-weeping Jacques; the cockroaches that swarmed in the wretched apartments at Lyons; the scene of the broken pitcher, with M. Eyssette's unending refrain, "Jacques, tu es un ane!" these things will never fade from the reader's mind because the author has seen them, heard them, lived them."
Likewise the scenes of a terrible boarding school are as vivid as anything by Dickens or Bronte, "We too stand somewhat in dread of M. Viot and his keys, we too wonder what Little Black Eyes makes of life, we too have confidence in the rugged, uncouth Abbe Germane. We should have liked to sit with the tiny scholars in order to hear Le Petit Chose tell them stories; we are glad to find him repentant toward Bamban; we take his part in the famous "Affaire Boucoyran"; and we are surprised to find how much we also are affected by the sight of the swinging ring with the loop-knot attached made of a violet necktie."
Le Petit Chose is today out of print and almost completely unknown among English readers, but for French readers it is his 2nd or 3rd most popular book. Recommended highly for Francophiles and lovers of great literature.
(STB, 07-09, 54)